I break for trees

I break for trees

It feels odd, walking through the wet grass in my business clothes.

To make matters worse, there is a fine mist in the air, which threatens to return me to my gig today decidedly damp if I linger out here.  But these majestic oaks in the foggy morning beckon me.

I am in Texas, working at a corporate conference center.  I didn’t think I’d have time to ruminate for a blog post.  But my Scripture reading this morning framed my mind to see these trees.

The first chapter in Isaiah is an indictment, in the celestial courtroom, of God’s people.  It layers metaphor on top of metaphor, ending up with a comparison to a tree.

For you shall be like an oak
      whose leaf withers,
      and like a garden without water.
And the strong shall become tinder,
     and his work a spark,
     and both of them shall burn together,
     with none to quench them. (Isaiah 1:30-31)

It’s a frightening image: such a massive, strong oak being nothing but kindling for a coming fire.  And so are those who stand in defiance to God, unyielding to his will, inattentive to his calls for repentance.  All their work is nothing but a spark, floating up from the blaze into the night sky.

The opening line of this passage, however, reminds me of the counterpoint to this sobering thought, the melodic resolution of this minor-key dissonance.

He is like a tree
     planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
     and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:3)

This healthy oak, the psalm tells us, is the believer whose “delight is in the law of the Lord.” (vs.2) Notice in both of the passages, the vigor of the tree depends on nearby water.  But there is a contrast between the momentary “spark” of the work of the rebellious and the continuous fruit of the righteous.

Have you ever noticed how similar a tree’s roots and branches are?  It’s almost as if two hands were glued together: one above ground, one below.  Trees are one big bundle of need, seeking refreshment and nourishment in every direction.

Standing awkwardly in the wet grass near this spreading oak, I feel my need for the presence of the Lord.  For his words to soak in and give me life.  For my life to produce lasting fruit.

I need to dig down and reach up.  Every day.

Plant us by your stream, Lord.  Give us the heart, the determination, the need to seek you in your word every day.  How we want to bear your fruit!

Reader:  Do you have a favorite tree?  I’d love to hear about it.  (And see a photo!). Tell me what it teaches you.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.